Bopanna overheard his mother and grandmother discussing the bajji plans for the evening. His mouth started watering as the images of hot and fluffy bajjis filled his mind. He ran up to his mother and tied his arms around her legs and started chirping merrily like a bird. “ Amma, I will come home soon from school today!” and he left to school, happily, eager for the reward of his day long wait!
The prayer song began at 9 am and the children sang together, “ Jayathi Jayathi Bharatha Maatha….” Bopanna could not remember the verses following these lines as his mind was filled with the thoughts of hot bajjis and the mint chutney that his mother would make for him! He mumbled “ bajji bajji Bharatha bajji..” until his eyes met the bhajan teacher’s at the far end of the assembly hall! Bopanna came back to his senses immediately and pretended to sing the correct lines, his eyes half open and half closed.
His day at the school was spent without any attention to his teachers or the lessons. The only thoughts that filled Bopanna were those of the piping hot bajjis. It was 3”o’clock and the bell rang, to his surprise, even louder than usual. He could feel his heart melting secretly inside and his feet prancing merrily as he almost ran home and opened the front gates of his chosen heaven.
He knocked at the front door and his Ajji, (grand mother) came running to open it. “Bopanna!” she exclaimed, shock and surprise writ on her wrinkled face, at the sight of little Bopanna and his half a dozen little friends at the door. “ Amma! Bajji ready?” Bopanna asked eagerly signaling his friends to follow him to the backyard so that they could wash their hands and feet by the well.
“ Amma, look-Shammu, Mannu, Kausthub, Vinodhu are all here for the evening” he announced to his mother who stood by the kitchen. ” Oh Ragavendra! I haven’t made the bajjis yet! I didn’t know you would bring your friends home, Bopu!”. “Whaat?!!!” cried Bopanna with anguish filling his little heart and tears blurring his eyes, threatening to cascade down any minute. “Ok, go run to the kirana shop and get some besan flour “ shouted Amma.
His friends waited eagerly while Bopanna pretended to set them up for a game of carom board. They all had settled down with a glass of lemon juice that Ajji made for them while Bopanna raced up to the shop by the street end for the flour. As he returned, his mother stopped him at the gate and sent him again for some potatoes for the bajjis.
It was half past 3 and the friends were getting restless, almost losing interest in the board game. Ajji tried to keep them engaged with her sweet talk, inquiring about each one’s parents, siblings and extracted as much news about the neighborhood as possible.
Soon, Bopanna came from the kitchen with hot and divine-smelling bajjis in small plates for each of them and served the mint chutney to go with the bajjis. He took great pride in his Amma’s delicacies and considered them the best in his neighborhood.
Each of them had more than 3 bajjis and requests for more kept pouring in. The boys hogged to their heart’s fill and got up to wash their hands when one of them burped so loudly that all of them felt the need to burp. Soon, the boys left Bopanna’s home thanking him for the real treat and assuring him that they would come back soon for another such treat again.
Boppana was glad that his Amma could make the bajjis at such short notice and that too, out-of-world ones that he could not thank her enough. He went into the kitchen hoping to feast on his share. “What? You have not eaten yet?” asked his surprise Amma. Shocked, is more like it. “ It’s all over Bopu! I thought you ate the bajjis with your friends!” Another flood of tears was rearing its ugly head, and Bopanna could feel his heart break into tiny shards.
Ajji, having watched the entire scene, did some quick thinking and went running to her neighbour to get a bowl of flour and handed it over to Boppanna’s Ammi. Amma made some more batter and friend the remaining potatoes stuffed in, and instantly, extra large bajjis popped out of the hot oil . She went up to Bopanna’s room by the stairs and placed the plate of Bajjis by his side, hugged him to her bosom and said “Bopu, here’s your share my darling! It’s all for you!”
Bopanna could not believe his own eyes as he saw a plate full of huge bajjis placed by his table. He could not make any sense of how they arrived so fast although he saw the bowl of flour totally empty in the kitchen! Bopanna wiped his tears and ate them one by one, dipping each in the mint chutney, savoring each bite in total bliss and hugging his Amma every now and then. Ajji stood by the door and secretly exchanged understanding looks with Amma, overjoyed that the disappointment from the little one’s face was wiped off and was replaced with happiness and contentment, that is so becoming on children Bopu’s age!